How to engage your organisation in learning? Encourage a growth mindset

Every board wants to be leading a learning organisation. Or they should. Learning organisations tend to be innovative, streamlined, change-resistant (Resist it? They embrace it!) and can often be found at the forefront their field. But how do you get your workforce to be enthusiastic about learning? The answer lies in encouraging a growth mindset.

The top 3 learning challenges

In LinkedIn’s 2020 Workplace Learning report, the number one challenge for learning and development professionals the world over was getting managers to make learning a priority for their teams (identified by 49% of respondents); closely followed by creating a culture of learning (42%) and increasing employee engagement in learning (36%).

Let’s face it, if your organisation’s approach to learning doesn’t go beyond the maintenance of job skills, future-proofing basic performance in the role, then those challenges are unlikely to go away.

Over the last few years, more and more senior leadership have been looking to the idea of facilitating a growth mindset as a way of creating a genuine culture of learning that runs through the organisation like the name of a seaside town in a stick of rock.

What is a growth mindset?

The growth mindset concept (as opposed to a ‘fixed mindset’ was first popularised by Carol Dweck in her 2006 book, “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success”. The core attitudes and beliefs of a growth mindset:

  • Intelligence can be developed; i.e. it is not fixed.
  • A desire to learn.
  • Challenges are embraced as opportunities to learn and develop.
  • Setbacks and obstacles are not an end – instead there’s a persistence and resilience, a ‘keep trying’ attitude, the old, if at first you don’t succeed… philosophy.
  • Effort is viewed as a “path to mastery” – someone with a growth mindset isn’t worried about ‘looking smart’ in front of others, they’re prepared to get things wrong (and to be seen doing so) because that’s how they learn.
  • Criticism is perceived as useful – it offers a route to better performance.
  • Others’ successes are inspiring – there’s no room for jealousy or envy, instead other people’s positive stories put fuel in the tank.

The result? An optimistic worldview and higher levels of achievement.

In a sense, a growth mindset does not experience failure. Because any missed goal or objective is instead perceived as the chance to learn, do better next time… and ultimately is a step towards success.

Growing a growth mindset

On an individual level, there’s an onus on managers and leaders to encourage people to aspire to more, to put learning in the context of the individual’s future career and not just ‘getting by’ in their current role. In the context of performance appraisal and development conversations, this means looking beyond the day to day and getting to know people as individuals – what are their strengths, what are they interested in, what really motivates them, what do they want to be doing in five years’ time? (Which means you need to have an idea of what their job/role – and the business – might look like in five years’ time!) Then, that knowledge is applied by making personalised training and learning recommendations: 77-80% of respondents (depending on age) value receiving personalised course recommendations based on their career goals and skills gaps.

On an organisational level, encouraging a growth mindset is about the culture managers and leaders create within the team and wider workplace. Ask yourself, in your organisation, does the way you do things around here value learning? Or not? Food for thought.


If you want to explore more about learning culture and culture change from a boardroom perspective, take a look at our Boardroom Effectiveness culture change programme; or give us a call on 01582 463465. We’re here to help.

Categories: Boardroom, Training

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